Michigan– Bills prohibiting landlords from income-based discrimination pass House committee

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Shannon McKenney Shubert, with the Michigan Breastfeeding Network, and Tameka White, a Certified Lactation Counselor, with their kids, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee, May 15, 2024. | Screenshot

A five-bill package that would prevent landlords from denying renters based on their source of income passed through the Michigan House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, with testimony also taken on legislation to expand the rights for those breastfeeding their children.

The rent-related package, which is comprised of Senate Bills 205 , 206 and 207 , along with House Bills 4062 and 4063 , would prohibit landlords with five or more rental units from denying prospective renters because of their use of housing vouchers or other subsidies to pay rent, with options to file for damages as well as a discrimination complaint.

When the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee took testimony last year on the bills, state Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills), the lead sponsor of SB 206, said that the issue of rent discrimination was surprisingly pervasive in Michigan and noted a pair of rental complexes in her district decided to stop renting to people with housing subsidies after a change in ownership, ultimately displacing several residents.

Wednesday’s testimony included that from state Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor), sponsor of HB 4063, which would add “source of income” to the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) so that a complaint could then be filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

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“We have seen folks denied from housing based on their source of income over and over again,” he told the committee. “As chair of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, we’ve been working really hard to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to live in our state. In this effort, the department has shared on more than one occasion that our veterans are facing discrimination due to their source of income in our state. Let me emphasize this again.

“Today in Michigan, there are currently veterans facing discrimination in housing. We need to end that. Veterans, the elderly [and] hardworking families should know that their basic right to housing in their community is being affected. This package would ensure that we are able to do that for those folks.”

The only question from the panel came from Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Adams Twp.), a former U.S. Marine Captain, who asked Morgan to what extent veterans were affected by income discrimination.

“It’s a small percentage,” responded Morgan. “I don’t know the exact number but the point is any veteran that faces housing discrimination because they’re receiving their rightful veteran benefits for housing should not face discrimination.”

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When Fink asked if there would be interest in tailoring the legislation to veterans, Morgan declined.

“No, only because I think that veterans are a critically important component of folks who gain protection, but also so do other folks who receive their rental income from a voucher or a public benefit or anything else, so I would like to protect everyone at the same time rather than just one group of folks who are facing discrimination,” he said.

“So it seems we agree that these bills are not really about veterans housing, but they’re a general topic,” responded Fink at which point committee chair, state Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), stepped in.

“Representative, I’m going to say you’re mischaracterizing what Representative Morgan is saying,” Breen asserted. “That is not what he said.”

“As usual, I’m accused of mischaracterization. I invite everybody to review the tape. Thank you, Madam Chair,” Fink replied.

At that point, all five bills were voted out of the Judiciary Committee along party lines, with the Democratic majority providing the 7-5 margin. The Senate bills were already approved by that chamber, but they are tie-barred to the two House bills, which further define the extent to which the laws could be utilized and in what circumstances.


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